Cinderella and her colorful friends return to Raleigh Little Theatre (RLT) this holiday season, once again bringing to life this timeless tale and delighting families from across the region. This year marks both the 29th anniversary and the 300th performance of this production, which was first performed on December 13, 1984. Cinderella will perform on the Sutton Main Stage at RLT from Dec. 6-16, 2012.
A key to Cinderella’s long success is her mixture of tradition and innovation. RLT Artistic Director Haskell Fitz-Simons, who has directed every Cinderella production, works with a combination of returning and new volunteers to update the show each year while staying true to its original roots. This diversity ensures each performance is a unique experience, even for families who make the annual pilgrimage to see the Prince find his true love every Holiday season.
Over the years, Cinderella has worked in several locations and with many of the area’s best performers. For example, Clay Aiken took a turn in the production as a Page in 1995 and two Cinderellas have later carried the title of Miss North Carolina. But even as some faces change, others have remained to provide audiences with the familiar. For example, Betsy Bates and Jo Brown have participated in every production since 1984. Bates has served as Props Master and Brown has played both the evil Step Mama and the caring Fairy God Mother, and now serves on Fitz-Simons’ production team.
Many audience members are now bringing their children or grandchildren to have the same experience they did growing up, so Cinderella has grown to have a multi-generational fan base. One example is a family who travels to Raleigh from Wilmington each December just to see Cinderella in action, and has only missed one of the twenty-eight performances to date.
One of Cinderella’s newest fans is Raleigh Little Theatre’s new Executive Director, Charles Phaneuf. A Raleigh native, Phaneuf started at the theater in January 2012 after eight years of working in Washington, D.C., as Associate Managing Director at Shakespeare Theatre Company and then Managing Director at Joe’s Movement Emporium.
“When I told a friend that I was taking the job at RLT, the first thing she did was sing me a couple of her favorite numbers from Cinderella. She grew up in University Park and went to RLT every year with her sisters, it was a big occasion for them and left a lasting impression,” said Phaneuf.
The Princess’ 29th anniversary arrives during a period of revitalization and growth at Raleigh Little Theatre, one of the nation’s longest continually operating community theaters. When Cinderella first took the stage, RLT was one of only a few theaters in town, but now the Triangle region is home to 32 theatre companies, according to Triangle Art Works. This growth is part of what attracted Phaneuf to return to the area.
“It seemed like an incredible opportunity to come back to Raleigh right now,” he said. “The Triangle region has developed a thriving, dynamic theatrical ecosystem. Given that Raleigh and Cary grew by 20 percent from 2000 to 2010, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to continue to serve this expanding community with outstanding, accessible arts programs. Raleigh Little Theatre is poised to be a leader by serving as a hub for the entire theatre community. ”
One way that the theatre is being a community leader is using its outdoor performance venue, the 1,700-seat ScotTy Stephenson Amphitheatre, for a variety of affordable performing arts activities that showcase the local arts scene. This past summer, performances by the Raleigh Concert Band and the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra drew large crowds with minimal promotion, showing that the community is hungry for more outdoor entertainment options.
But even with this growth in local performing arts, Cinderella remains in a class of her own. With vibrant characters, memorable songs and audience participation – including the Prince trying out the lost slipper on young girls in the crowd - she continues to create lasting family memories. She hopes that you will make her adventures a part of your holiday plans this year and for many more to come. Just don’t ask her age.
Tickets for Cinderella are $25 for all ages. Tickets can be purchased online at www.raleighlittletheatre.org or from the RLT Box Office at 919-821-3111.
Photo Credit: StuArt Wagner